Sunday, March 06, 2011

Macaroni & Cheese Casserole

This is my sister Amelia's all-time favorite dish.  She is the youngest in our family.  This is also the all-time favorite of my youngest child (also a girl)!  You will see my daughter's little hands in some of the pictures below....she also helped me make the homemade bread crumbs.  I think a crispy bread crumb topping is essential for this casserole.  The smooth and creamy cheese sauce and macaroni provide a wonderful contrast against the crispy crumb topping.  This is comfort food for sure! 

Macaroni & Cheese
adapted from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook

1 pound of macaroni, cooked
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (I used a basic New York Cheddar- it is yellow/orange in color)
8 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese (I used a Vermont cheese --it is white in color)
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs (see recipe here Bread Crumbs 101)
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
8 Tablespoons flour
5 cups whole milk (heated --I heated my milk in the microwave)
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (to drizzle over bread crumb topping)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grate the cheeses onto a piece of parchment or wax paper --this will allow easy transfer to the pot.  Cook the macaroni and drain (do not rinse with water).  Transfer cooked pasta to 9x13 casserole dish.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture bubbles, about 2-3 minutes.  (Don't let it get brown.)  Add the hot milk gradually, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens.  Bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste (about a teaspoon each), lower the heat to med/low and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes more.  Add the cheese and stir to combine --about a minute. 
Pour cheese sauce over pasta and stir to combine --make sure all the macaroni is coated with cheese sauce.  Sprinkle bread crumbs over casserole and then drizzle with melted butter.
Bake uncovered for 20-30 minutes until cheese sauce is bubbling.